It’s a new era, and the NBA has unveiled six new trophies to present to its annual KIA Performance Award winners:
- The Michael Jordan Trophy for the KIA NBA Most Valuable Player
- The Jerry West Trophy for the NBA Clutch Player of the Year
- The Hakeem Olajuwon Trophy for the NBA Defensive Player of the Year
- The Wilt Chamberlain Trophy for the NBA Rookie of the Year
- The John Havlicek Trophy for the NBA Sixth Man of the Year
- The George Mikan Trophy for the NBA Most Improved Player
The latter five kind of look like vases my grandmother has in her many display cabinets of glass and crystal, which I’m a fan of, so they’re still pretty neat. That being said, unsurprising to fans of a certain small market team in South Texas, no Spurs are represented. Granted, that’s hard to do in such a select field, but players like Tim Duncan could make a case for several of these awards, and of course, Manu Ginobili will always be considered one of, if not the top Sixth Man of all time (at least to modern fans).
So that got me to thinking, if each award was named after Spurs players, who would they be? Here are my suggestions, with the main rule being a player can only have one trophy named after him (because that’s what the NBA did, plus let’s face it: otherwise Tim Duncan would win at least half of them, and that’s no fun for the sake of this exercise, but there’s a runners-up list for each trophy to give other players a shout-out.)
The Tim Duncan Trophy for Most Valuable Player
This is a no brainer. The two-time MVP winner is without a doubt the best player in franchise history. The Spurs franchise doesn’t have much of its storied, winning history without him, and quite possibly no championships. There really isn’t much more to say: Timmy is the Spurs’ most valuable player of all time, and it will take a monumental effort over the course of an entire career for someone to remove him from that perch.
Runners up: David Robinson (1995 winner and definite 1b of the franchise), George Gervin (the original Mr. San Antonio — without one or both of these players, maybe the Spurs are no longer in San Antonio.)
The David Robinson Trophy for Defensive Player of the Year
Frankly, I’d argue The Admiral over The Dream for the real NBA DPOY trophy, but the debate between these two will never end, so moving on. Robinson made eight All-Defensive Team appearances and won the award in 1992. In an era where points still originated from the inside-out, he was an athletic force in the paint that would block any weak shot that came his way.
Runners up: Tim Duncan (15x All-Defense, uncannily 0x DPOY), Bruce Bowen (8x All-Defensive team)
The Manu Ginobili Trophy for Sixth Man of the Year
Another no brainer. Ginobili made being a sixth man popular in the modern era, which is tough as the value of maximum contracts become more dependent on how many awards and All-NBA or All-Defensive team appearances players make (which is harder to accomplish off the bench). Manu was the ultimate unselfish player who put his team ahead of his own personal goals, which is what it takes to be Sixth Man of the Year.
Runners up: George Hill (That’s all I got. There’s no one else who comes close — even Hill is a stretch considering his relatively short stint here; he just seemed destined for the role before he was traded and is still beloved in San Antonio.)
The Tony Parker Trophy for Rookie of the Year
This is probably the most controversial pick (and perhaps just an attempt to get Parker into the field), but the two Spurs who actually won the award are unavailable due to already having another trophy. Parker didn’t have the most impressive season of all Spurs rookies — at least nothing compared to Duncan and Robinson — but despite being an unknown product and late first round pick, he still forced Gregg Popovich to start him five games into his career (which, as we have come to learn, is a feat in and of itself) and made the All-Rookie First Team on a championship contender. He also became a mentor for future Spurs rookies who had to learn to deal with the wrath of Pop.
Runners up: Tim Duncan, David Robinson (Because duh. Darn those rules.)
The Alvin Robertson Trophy for Most Improved Player
The original winner of the award when it was created in 1986, the NBA has always tended to look at second-year players who took big leaps from their rookie season, and Roberston did just that from ‘85 to ‘86. From starting nine games and averaging 9.2 points his rookie season to starting all 82 while averaging 17 points and making the All-Star game in just his second, that performance would still stand up to the award if it was repeated today.
Runners up: Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard (Both seem more like lifetime achievement awards since their rises were more gradual than over the course of just one season, but both were non-lottery picks who took somewhat unexpected leaps to stardom relatively early in their careers.)
The George Gervin Trophy for Most Clutch Player
This is a new and kind of a weird NBA award. How will it be determined? Is it the player with the most game winners — which is rarely more than two or three per season? Is it the best player in the last two minutes based on the NBA’s definition of close games? The player you most want the ball in his hands for the final shot? Who knows, but with the modern Spurs that fit that description again off the board, we’ll go with the Iceman since he is often considered one of the most clutch players in franchise history anyways, using his sweet shooting stroke and length to bury opponents late with bigtime jumpers.
Runners up: Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard (All players who you wanted to have the ball in the clutch.)
What do you think, Pounders? Do you agree with the selections, would you change anything, or should the rule of one trophy per player be thrown out and just give each one to the most deserving player? Feel free to discuss in the comments below!